Wednesday, November 26, 2008

St Lucia Is Next

It seems like traveling has now become part of a Thanksgiving tradition. After all in recent memory:

Gee, I can't remember what it's like to have a Thanksgiving with the family.

In any case, this will be my first true Caribbean waterfalling experience and we're looking forward to it (Kaieteur Falls doesn't count even though even though Guyana in South America considers itself Caribbean).

Thailand Trip In Jeopardy

It's not normal for me to blog about a trip that isn't happening for another month, but this is a major issue that has been bugging Julie and I ever since we've been following its developments right after the end of our Africa trip.

In fact, we went through similar political uncertainty following the post-election turmoil in Kenya as well as the pre-election problems in Zimbabwe.

Unfortunately, we're already committed to the Thailand trip since we've already paid for it. The question is whether we should subject ourselves to their political chaos by making our money count (that trip isn't cheap since it's peak season in December) or just declare a big loss and not go on that trip. We're currently taking a wait-and-see approach right up to the last minute crossing our fingers.

As for what the political situation is about, here's the latest from CNN as well as another article trying to break down why it's taking place.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Drought in South Africa

Apparently, we're not the only ones with a looming water crisis.

I came across this interesting editorial, which talked about a respected writer getting sacked over his dire warnings about South Africa's water problems.

This caught my attention because we had to nix our intentions of visiting Tugela Falls (allegedly the second tallest waterfall on earth) from our Africa trip upon learning of their drought. I guess we made the right move back then.

Still, I thought it was strange that someone tried to tell the truth and stimulate some action to address the problem only to end up getting sacked and censored. I certainly hope we in Southern California can take more responsible action to address our drought situation.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Waterfall of the Week

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Timing A Waterfall Visit

To follow up on the previous blog post, I've added another Waterfalls 101 Class titled When Should I Visit Waterfalls?.

It's a full featured article discussing how to best optimize or time your visit to waterfalls of various types. Check it out!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Waterfall And Weather Paradox

Visiting waterfalls can be one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling activities you could ever partake in. Unfortunately, they could also be one of the most frustrating.

Ever since the fires of last weekend, I got to thinking about how we need storms to replenish the freshwater systems, but at the same time, bad weather can really put a damper on the waterfalling experience. We're currently hoping we'd at least get some amount of rain so it might motivate a pair of trips to Northern Arizona next Spring.

Plus, we've seen waterfalls that were trickling or were completely dry (e.g. several Australian waterfalls back in 2006 like Sailors Falls, Trentham Falls, and Nigretta Falls among others) as well as those where weather really made for a soggy experience (e.g. our Milford Track experience) or obscured views of the falls itself (e.g. our Catarata de Chinata excursion in Peru). We got lucky with our our Angel Falls experience as the weather cleared up for just long enough for us to see it before going cloudy again.

It's funny how nature is full of paradoxes and waterfalls seem to embody it. But you've got to take the good with the bad. And besides, when a waterfalling experience is spot on, it'll make you appreciate it that much more!

So when should I go visit waterfalls?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Waterfall of the Week

Back when I used to use the old blog, I used to periodically show a featured waterfall of the week.

I had forgotten about doing this until a loyal reader brought this up. (Thanks!!!)

So I'm going to resume this little tradition.

First up:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

There's No Winters Here; Only Santa Anas!

Julie and I planned to visit the new Griffith Park Observatory today in a small celebration of our wedding anniversary. But then, we were greeted with a massive traffic jam on the I-5. It was only 9am at the time, but we could see the massive plume of smoke that was coming from the Sylmar fire, which we had just learned broke out last night. And if you can imagine burning gas, paint, metals, plastics, etc. from homes, you can imagine how toxic this smoke is!

So we turned around and headed to Little Saigon for some Vietnamese food. But when we left that restaurant a short while later, we suddenly saw another giant plume of smoke hovering over the immediate area. This time, it came from Anaheim Hills/Corona/Riverside area.

Just when I was hopeful that the rain from a couple of weekends ago would usher in the Autumn and Winter and perhaps improve the conditions for some local waterfalling, we now get 90-degree weather and low humidity again - in the middle of November!

It seems like the Santa Ana winds are happening more frequently these days (wasn't it only a year ago that there were numerous fires in the San Bernardinos, San Gabriels, Santa Monicas?). It's pretty obvious to me that our drought and wildfires are intimately linked to Global Warming and overdevelopment locally. Two years ago, we saw firsthand the drought in Australia and they already made the connection (possibly one of the reasons why Kevin Rudd was voted in over John Howard in their election a year ago). I think it's our turn to feel that kind of pain (if we haven't been in it already).

Locally, it seems clear that Mother Nature is trying to take back the hilly areas where fire has been suppressed. But I always contended that irresponsible laws and economics (especially regarding the lack of environmental accountability) led to overdevelopment and increased reliance on fossil fuels. Well, we're witnessing the effects of such policies right now.

While I see the economic recession as an opportunity to right the ship nationwide and bring in a system that makes sense both economically and environmentally, locally I see these wildfires as an opportunity to halt urban sprawl, invest in desalinization, public transportation, solar and wind energy, etc. (pretty much restoring the state's infrastructure) rather than leaving things be. How much longer can we tolerate not doing anything?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How do you measure a waterfall's height?

If you've read about waterfalls (especially on the internet), then you know that they're usually accompanied by a measure or estimate of its height.

But believe it or not, a very large percentage of waterfalls around the world (many of which may have reported height figures) haven't been accurately measured!

In some cases, you can tell there are dubious claims of a waterfalls' height (probably to increase visitation) while there are other instances where there have been best guess estimates.

Fortunately, there's a way to measure a waterfall's vertical height. All you need is some portable equipment and a little math. So how do you do it? Read on and find out!

Another waterfall accident in New Zealand

I came across another accident relating to a waterfall in New Zealand. Except this time, it's in the Hawke's Bay region instead of Mt Ruapehu.

The following excerpt came from the New Zealand Herald.

Hastings hunter Eddie Kettle, who plunged eight metres down a waterfall while hunting on the East Coast on Sunday night, remains in a critical condition in Waikato Hospital's intensive care unit.
Mr Kettle, 23, was transferred from Hawke's Bay Hospital to Hamilton on Monday with serious head injuries after losing consciousness for nearly five hours while a rescue party battled dense bush to carry him to safety. He underwent surgery yesterday.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kiwi Anniversary

Today marks our fourth year wedding anniversary, which took place in New Zealand.

Julie and I have very fond memories of that moment as well as the honeymoon thereafter.

And when we take a step back and see what that fateful trip did to us, we appreciate how it ended up changing our lives for the better.

You see, it was the trip that singlehandedly turned our waterfalling into a global endeavor. And as we met different people, we've learned more about different cultures, different places, and different perspectives. We also saw different landscapes, different ecosystems, different climates, a variety of natural features (especially waterfalls), and more!

All of this helped us to better understand our world from how it works to why things are happening. Plus, it made us grow even more as individuals and motivated us to invest our time, passion, and energy to try to make our world a better place (you might be able to tell from some of the recent articles and blog entries).

Indeed, today is a very special day for us.

We hope you get to experience similar joys. Plus, we certainly hope we can keep going like this.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Woman Dies In Skiing Accident In New Zealand

This tragic event caught my attention in a New Zealand Herald headline. The only details released at the moment were from an officer investigating the scene who said she fell into a waterfall hole on the western side of Mt Ruapehu in the Turoa Ski Field.

The waterfall piqued my curiosity since I've been to Mangawhero Falls and Waitonga Falls both of which are on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu. But we never made further upslope at the Turoa Ski Field (it's actually accessible via Whakapapa as opposed to Ohakune).

Then, I chanced upon this blog ( with a photo gallery of a snowboarding trip where a snowboard fell into a waterfall hole in the Turoa Ski Field (the photos here came from that blog). I wonder if it was the same waterfall hole involved in the skiing accident.

I'm sure it's all speculation at this point, but since waterfalls generally occur where the terrain is steepest, do be careful when you're around them, and exercise more caution when you leave the groomed runs.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cautious Optimism

Well now that we can call Barack Obama "Mr President" (uh, well, president-elect until January), I actually feel a sense of hope that policies that will come out of this administration will strive to consider the environment while stimulating the economy in doing so. I think that's good news for waterfalling in general as you need to have a healthy environment in order to have healthy waterfalls.

For far too long, the world's economy disregarded the true cost of goods and services by discounting the amount of resources used and detrimental effects on the environment to procure them.

While I strongly disagree with Obama's support for biofuels and "clean" coal technology, I do get the feeling that he's real serious about carbon caps and truly clean renewable solar and wind energy.

But now the real work begins...

As the economy is in awful shape, I wonder whether Obama's good intentions will be hampered by the fact that America's broke and owes trillions of dollars. I think in order to appreciate the depth and magnitude of what we're in for, we need to look at how long it took Japan to recover (and how they managed to do it) from the bursting of their economy, which was based on artificial wealth. Of course, we can also reflect back on our history lessons and take a closer look at the Great Depression and what it took to get out of that.

I sure hope Obama's vision of a better America will be fulfilled. But I'm certain this will take longer than his current term so I'm actually hoping if he starts the momentum in the right direction that he can get re-elected in 2012 to keep the momentum going...

The expectations and stakes are high, but I'm cautiously optimistic about Obama's Administration. Indeed, we have reason to hope, but it's gonna take more than that to pull through this.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rain At Last

This past weekend, Southern California saw its first true rain storm of the season. Needless to say, it was badly needed as California is officially in a drought.

Even though we love sunny weather, I actually appreciate it when it rains because it replenishes waterfalls, momentarily clears up the smog and yields nice vistas of snow-capped San Bernardino Mountains, and supplies much-needed freshwater to the people who call this place home.

Besides, rain kind of affirms a natural cyclic order of things. If it stopped raining altogether, something just seems wrong.

In fact, rain couldn't even put a damper on the morning of Election Tuesday (have you voted yet?).

But not all's fine and dandy with the rain.

That's because it managed to wet the interior of my car. You see with all the heat from our nearly perpetual Summer, I tend to leave the windows a little open to let out some of the heat accumulated when the car is parked. And because of that move, I ended up going to work with a wet behind and sticky, dirty hands (from the dirty steering wheel combined with water).

All things considered though, I hope the rain keeps coming.

We need it!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Time To Fall Back

In case you don't know, today we're supposed to fall back one hour.

I wish we'd just stick with either Daylight Savings Time or Pacific Standard Time year round and keep things simple. Plus, I don't buy the energy-saving argument because we're still seeing the same amount of darkness (when more lights and other appliances are turned on) either way.

This also reminded Julie and I of a scary moment while in Buenos Aires, Argentina last year in late December when they sprung ahead an hour without us knowing on a day we had to fly out!

I suppose it could be even more drastic like in a country as large as China, which is all synchronized to one time zone!

Anyways, we'll just have to take it for what it is and move on...

Running Out Of Clean Water?

While most of us rejoice at the nearly constant sunny weather in Southern California (where Winters are nearly nonexistent), I was certainly happy when it rained this weekend.

Granted, it's not nearly enough to undo our drought situation, but when I came across this blog entry this morning, I was reminded that diminishing rainfall distribution is merely a small part of the overall problem of freshwater availability.

Indeed, our waterfalling endeavors have made us well aware of this issue.

Especially in the case of Los Angeles as well as other municipalities throughout the American Southwest, drastic measures in terms of agro-business clean-up, our own water consumption habits, and water procurement (e.g. desalinization) must occur or else we face dire consequences not unlike those we'll face by ignoring global warming or peak oil or overpopulation or the depletion of other natural resources (notice how all of these are related?).

It's worrying to say the least, but as citizens with the option to cast a vote, it's up to us to vote in the people and the measures that we think will actually do something about our environment (and shoot down those where we can smell the BS).

Sure, it's not easy with all the misleading advertisements flooding the airwaves and the discouragingly confusing text presented in the ballot, but our future (and that of our kids) depends on the actions we take by exercising our right to cast an informed vote.